The Basilica di San Nicola is one of Bari’s most popular landmarks. It is an important pilgrimage site for both, Roman Catholics as well as Orthodox Christians. The Basilica dates from 1087, and was built to house the relics of Saint Nicholas, which were stolen from Myra (in Turkey), and brought to Bari during the Crusades. The relics were installed in the crypt of the Basilica in 1089. This is, hands down, one of my favorite places in Bari. There is a sense of tranquility that radiates over the space, even when there are groups of tourists roaming around. I absolutely love visiting the Basilica, and no trip to Bari would be complete for me, without a visit here.
The statue of San Nicola in the courtyard, in front of the church, was a gift to the city of Bari, from Russia. The statue is the work of the Soviet artist Zurab Tsereteli.
While the Saint was still interred in Turkey, it was noticed that his bones produced a liquid, on a regular basis. The liquid was believed to be miraculous, and was collected once a year, and given to the faithful who were suffering from illnesses, and other discomforts. This continued even after the Saint was brought to Bari, and to this day, on December 6th of every year, a ceremony is held, and the “manna”, as the liquid is called, is collected and divided up into small vials, which are then mixed, either with blessed oil or holy water, and made available to the faithful. I always leave Bari with at least one or two vials of manna. The building where you should go, if you would like some, is located to the direct right of the Basilica.
The beautiful Baroque ceiling is by Carlo Rosa from Bitonto, and dates from 1661.
The silver altar pictured below was originally meant to cover the Saint’s tomb, but instead, it was placed along the right wall of the Basilica.
No visit to the Basilica is complete without walking down the stairs, found on either side of the church, until you get to the crypt and tomb of the Saint.
There are two small altars in the crypt, one for Roman Catholic services, and the other, for Orthodox Christians.
Inside the main altar is the tomb of the Saint, and it is from here, each year, that the manna is collected.
Next up: We explore more of the delightful city of Bari!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations that may appear. If you have enjoyed this post, please, check out our archives for more posts from Bari, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!